Vol. 5 Num 696 Mon. May 15, 2006  
Star City

Rickshaw eviction: Is it the only solution?

Rickshaws carry a major section of passengers and it is not prudent to evict them from city roads, said speakers at an 'exchange-of-views' programme organised by Manusher Jonya Rasta (Roads for people) at the CIRDAP auditorium recently.

Statistics by Dhaka Urban Transport Project, (DUTP) in 1998 shows that rickshaws occupy 38 percent of the road carrying 54 percent passengers while private vehicles occupy 34 percent carrying nine percent passengers.

Speakers criticised the government for banning rickshaws without any measures to control the increasing number of cars.

"Thirty seven percent of the city residents is comprised of slum dwellers and 45-50 percent are from the middle class. These people can only afford rickshaw for communication," said Professor Nurul Islam Nazem, Department of Geography and Environment, Dhaka University (DU).

Slum dwellers also walk, middle class people use buses and rickshaws while the 10 rest percent use cars, he said. He posed the question: "Which group should receive priority while planning for vehicle structure -- 10 or 50 percent people."

"Rather than evicting them, lanes could be provided for rickshaws as done along the New Market road, train rickshaw pullers regarding traffic rules and management," he said.

"Rickshaw eviction is not the solution. This will give rise to other problems," Islam said.

Dr KM Maniruzzaman, associate professor and chairman, Urban and Regional Planning (URP) department, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) also said: "Eviction will add to the already existing unemployment problem."

He emphasised on improving the public bus service to resolve the transport problem. He said that public transport should be made user friendly, which in turn will encourage commuters to use them.

Maruf Rahman, coordinator, Manusher Jonya Rasta said that 42 types of jobs are related with rickshaws, including making, painting, selling and pulling them.

The keynote paper showed that rickshaw pullers' income has decreased from 32 to 41 percent after they were made off-limit on various city roads.

Helal Uddin Nagri, adviser institutional support, Dhaka Transport Co-ordination Board (DTCB) said that the city has 3,000 kilometre (km) roads, which includes 310 km of primary and secondary roads, of which only 16 km are off limit to rickshaws.

"We plan to make 24 more km off-limit to rickshaws," he said.

He also said according to DITS, (Dhaka Integrated Transport Studies, 1991-1994) rickshaws occupy 73 percent of the road carrying 19 percent passengers. But the recent Strategic Transport Planning (STP) shows that rickshaw carry 34 percent passengers.

"For quick movement and a faster bus network service some roads need to be off limit to rickshaws," Nagri said.

"We use rickshaws because they are available, else we will walk, but we need more footpaths," said Tushar Rahman, secretary general of Citizen Rights Movement.

However, Abu Naser Khan, convenor, Paribesh Bachao Andolan (Save the Environment Movement) pointed out that there should be different lanes for buses and rickshaws.

He said there must be some roads that will be off limit to rickshaws, while other roads must have a different lane for them.

Md Abdul Bari, executive director, Bangladesh Environmental Development Organization (Bedo) has been training rickshaw pullers on traffic rules, health care, social security and insurance policy for 10 years and has trained 27,000 of them so far.

"Training of rickshaw pullers will reduce the present traffic congestions," he said.

Professor Dr Sarwar Jahan, from Urban and Regional Planning (URP) department of BUET said transportation increases with the increasing population, so planning in all aspects is vital.

Prof M M Akash from Economics Department of DU said that he was observing the problem from two points of views -- the socio-economical, which according to law cannot evict a person from the present job without a replacement, and necessity meaning more speed, low costs and carrying more people.

"In Bangladesh the income of the affluent class at present is 84 times more than the middle and low income groups, whereas in 1991 the difference was only 20," he added.

Shakil Bin Qushem, a BUET lecturer read the keynote paper. He stressed the need for development of infrastructure of roads and public buses.

While Dr K M Maniruzzaman, presided over the meeting, Amit Ranjan Dey played the role of moderator.

Mohidul Haque Khan from Bangladesh Paribesh Andolan (Bapa), KM Mujibul Haq, traffic inspector (TI) Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP), Dr SM Saleh Uddin, additional executive director DTCB, Anwar Ahmed, additional executive director of DTCB and among others also spoke.